A tour of Paris from the heads of the city's alumni chapter


Image credit: John S. Dykes

Paris is at its most rejuvenating on a lazy Sunday. It's a day when you won't miss American efficiency or curse France's infamous bureaucracy. Paris—always, but especially on a Sunday—is a place where enjoying life is prioritized, says Zachary Gurard-Levin, A&S '05, one of the approximately 200 alumni who spend their days among the streets and squares of la Ville Lumière. Gurard-Levin and Sheila Isanaka, A&S '03, Johns Hopkins Alumni Association, Paris chapter, co-presidents, offer their version of the perfect Sunday in one of the most remarkable cities in the world.

After a leisurely grasse matinée and coffee, choose one of two culture infusions: the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, a museum that features exceptionally curated contemporary photography exhibits, or the Paris Catacombs, a riveting underground maze of artistically stacked human bones transferred from above-ground cemeteries in the 18th and 19th centuries. "While I'd consider this off of most standard tourist routes, there will still be a line, so arrive early or be prepared to wait," says Isanaka.

You'll want a quick pick-me-up afterward—a perfect excuse to head to Paris' tiny Île Saint-Louis, home to the decadent homemade ice cream shop Berthillon (a five-minute walk from the photography museum; 45 minutes from the catacombs). Try the wild strawberry sorbet. Next, walk north past the Place de la Bastille monument, which honors the country's lesser-known 1830 July Revolution, to the open-air Marché Bastille for exquisite cheeses and fresh fruits and vegetables. Continue up Boulevard Richard Lenoir, and you'll soon come to the beautiful Canal Saint-Martin, a favorite gathering spot of Parisians for picnics along the canal banks. Top off your bursting belly by heading west to Rue des Martyrs for your final stop: chocolatier Henri Le Roux, one of the best makers of salted butter caramels in Paris.

Most restaurants in Paris are closed on Sundays; Gurard-Levin says that "for an excellent, affordable dinner with fresh ingredients purchased from local markets," Chez Toinette or Miroir, both in the 18th arrondissement, are open later in the week.